The internet’s a visual place. Think of it as a planet. How do humans learn, explore, decide which direction to go, how to get what we need, and who to hang out with? The same way we collect information anywhere….with our eyes.
Pictures work with copy.
The image/text relationship is mutual. Copy drives people to images. Images buttress insights, descriptions and ideas. Pictures shine light on those textual details. Think you’ve covered your bases if you have a lot of pretty pictures on your site or post pictures on Instagram or Pinterest? No, pictures alone are not enough. Even a photographer or designer — someone whose craft is purely visual – needs words to educate the viewer, offer meaning about the idea, or tell a story about the production of his art. (Don’t even get them started about fonts!)
Words matter. They clarify, intensify and provoke deeper thinking about the pictures…
But pictures relay information in one glance. People are in a hurry to grab and go. If a picture helps them make sense of a page quickly, that’s good. If it makes them want to lean in and read — even better!
Let’s talk about engagement, when someone acts on your content or advertisement with a click a Like, a share, a comment, a forward, etc. Savvy marketers seize attention with pictures and compelling copy to increase engagement with their content and ads.
Some stats on pictures:
- Depending on who you ask, pictures on Facebook get between 39 and 120% greater interaction than text based posts.
- How do you get someone to scroll down your email newsletter? Place a picture peeking up from below the fold.
- Pay-per-click ads on Google and Facebook almost require a thumbnail size of eye candy to get a click.
- A picture helps your customer get a concept in less than 1/10th of a second. It’s quick.
- It also helps your customer’s eye move through your copy. They’re only reading about 28% of your copy on any given web page anyway, even if your copy is awesome, so a picture just helps them out. Readers are grateful.
What kind of pictures are we talking about here? How do different picture choices affect that “Connection” factor, engagement?
- Should you use pictures of inanimate objects or people?
- Women or men? Does background matter?
- And where do I find good ones?
- Can I get them for free?
People pictures: These are the best if your business is a service or if you have an information-type product.
Knowing that most of MyTeamConnects’ blog readers are smaller non-retail shops, I’m focusing on the business owner/marketer who delivers a service, provides information, or is directly involved in the sale of their company’s product.
In other words, if you want people to call you, hire you, hear your speech, read your articles, or be their go-to resource on a subject, then use a picture your face…Yes, YOU.
Pictures of you:
On your about page: I highly suggest you use your own beautiful mug on your website’s “about” page and your social media sites. Whether you sell a product, information, professional services, or entertainment; people want to know who they’re dealing with. They’ll make an immediate connection with you and your business if they can see what you look like. It’s human nature.
On your business card: One real estate investor told me no one ever remembered him until he put his picture on his business card. If you expect someone to call you and do business with you directly, then give them a face to go with your name.
On your social media sites — even your business pages: Ever notice how many successful people online business people repeat the use of their personal name for their business pages? (Think Mari Smith and Sandi Krakowski) These women know that their brand is intrinsically tied to their personal identity. If you are self conscious about putting your face out there, I say this with love: Get over it! You wouldn’t walk into a roomful of colleagues or customers with a paper bag over your head. So don’t do it online. The personal side of your business must be satisfied if you are to engage your audience. People crave seeing the face of the one who can help them.
Don’t use the excuse that you don’t have a professional photo! You don’t need to spend a lot of money. You can get a hobbyist photographer to take a nice pic for around $50. Only if all else fails, take a selfie — Instagram filters make anyone look great. The point is, people just want to see your eyes…it’s a connection thing.
Pictures of others:
Actual customers or happy clients: These are powerful images because they allow your reader to see others like them who have used your services. If someone says something complimentary, like how you delighted them or made their life easier; oh, my gosh! Grab the opportunity to record it. Literally. Use your phone to record their testimonial and snap a picture or video.
Look-alikes: Now, what about blog posts, promotional flyers and that kind of thing, where your content is not about you? In those cases, use a picture of someone who looks like your buyer persona or ideal customer.
Creative concepts: To illustrate a concept that is fantastical, or mind/heart-expanding in some way, go ahead and be more creative. Sometimes those weird, one-off photos get the initial attention you need to start telling your story. An appropriate demographic isn’t necessary. Nor is a people picture required at all! Scenes from your own experiences, snapped by you, are powerful because you’re able to add text from a personal point of view. But sometimes you have something in mind that you just can’t snap easily or recreate…
Pictures of common stuff and things you don’t see every day:
You’re all antsy to go find some engaging images now, aren’t you? Wait a minute. You can’t just swipe them from Google images. It takes a little legwork.
Whenever I can, I simply use my own photos. For example, say I’m thinking of a way to express something inexpensive. I might use a picture of some pocket change. In a flash, I use my phone to take a picture. I can even put it on Instagram and tease out a subject line with my blog post or article idea in mind, and float it out to my community.
“Easy and free” are winsome qualities in a picture (more on that in a minute).
There are times, though, when you need a picture of a cobra, a cheeseburger, an angry old man, or the Eiffel Tower. Sometimes it’s easier to just find a picture online.
Which brings us to the wonderful world of stock photos:
Even if you’ve never bought a stock photo, you still know one when you see it. There are some pretty ridiculous ones out there, but many add richness to your theme even if the actual subject is a bit sanitized or trite.
Stock photos are necessary sometimes. I used this one in a blog post recently. My daughter happened to wander in and look over my shoulder just as I was uploading it. “Nice stock image, Mom…the determination on the handsome caucasian man’s face and the placement of the background plant in his clean, modern office…good stuff!” (I’m lucky to have a super smart 15-year old to point these things out.)
Creative Commons is another great option, as long as you give credit to the photographer. Please read this post for a thorough explanation of Creative Common usage. There are specific guidelines you must understand and comply with first, but it’s worth your while to look into it for the quality and originality you’ll find. Search Flickr ($6 for a 3-month subscription) for a ridiculous number of fresh, amazing photos and use them in your own marketing materials.
Freebies! If you don’t want to spend a dime on images, here’s a slew of free sites one copywriter recommends for blog pictures. One caveat: if you’re looking for something specific, you can’t always find that perfect image. Bigstock is my go-to fave for stock photos because it’s inexpensive and you don’t have to wade through a ton of pictures only to find out the one you want isn’t free. Your time is worth way more than that! On Bigstock I can download 5 images per day for 30 days on a subscription plan that only costs around $70. What’s that, 46 cents apiece? I subscribe for a month at a time, try to predict upcoming articles, and load up on images that strike my eye.
While we’re on the subject, here’s a free gift from Hubspot…some pictures you can use with no strings attached.
Other ways to add visual structure to your ideas:
Infographics are another great way to share information in an attractive and organized way. If you have content in a list form or bullet points or statistics, why not hire a designer to create a graphic illustration of your information. Why do people like infographics so much and why are they some of the most engaging, shareable images on the web? See for yourself in this stunning infographic. And if you want to make your own, here are some online sites to help you transform your data.
Slide decks: Easily increase engagement with your content by turning it into a powerpoint presentation. Take the main parts of an article, interview or video and expand the main concepts onto slides. Decks are the classic “oldschool” visual aid, but they’ve come a long way. Exposure to an active Linked In crowd is one of the benefits of adding your content to the beautiful and original decks on Slideshare. People view and digest slide decks faster than text, as long as they are visually enticing and informative.
Let’s not forget video. Video is lighting up the internet in a massive way! It is quickly becoming the most consumed content online. Make sure you have a business presence on YouTube and Vine. Easy uploads and easy sharing make these sites attractive for marketers even if you’re just beginning. Especially if your new, you want to be on YouTube because Google loves video and boosts the videos with keywords and tags right up the search ladder. (Extra points if one happens to go viral.) Take a screenshot of a the video and place it in your email, newsletter or update to attract more views and to give the reader a taste of what’s inside. [Quick tip: let people know how long the video is beforehand.]
Pictures in Email: One last thing! As a copywriter specializing in email, I want you to know this. Just before I hit the “publish” button I came across this simple explanation about “opens” in email marketing. See, “opens” are not always what you think. Readers can read your email and get nearly the full gist of it in the inbox without even clicking on it. No click; no “open.” The good news is, you can assume that your open rate is probably better than what your email service is reporting.
The sobering news is that a click on a picture counts as an open. So here’s another way your copy and pictures must work together like a team of workhorses. Use an enticing phrase for every alt-tag on every picture. That way, when pictures are disabled, as they often are inside your reader’s email client, the reader is prompted to enable that picture.
That’s what you want, after all!
Pictures bump engagement like crazy. Use them in your content often and watch the clicks, shares, likes and opens…climb.